There are a lot of reasons why it might not be easy to get along with your partner's friends. Oftentimes, the friends of the person you are dating have known them for longer than you have. That means you exist outside of a shared history of intimacy that exists apart from you. Feeling a sense of rivalry with your partner's friends is possible. They've been in your partner's life before you and could stay around after. Platonic intimacy is often more stable than the romantic kind, and therefore can last much longer than a relationship, but that's not to say that your relationship isn't valuable. Rather, you just need to know your place as one of many important relationships your partner has.
The people your partner associates with also tells you a lot about the person you are dating. If you don't get along with your partner's friends because they are racist, misogynistic, homophobic jerks, for example, then your problem isn't with your partner's friends, but with your actual partner. Nobody is better or worse than the people they hang out with, so if your significant other's friends are a bunch of dill weeds, then it's likely they might be, too.
Of course, getting along with people is not the same thing as being best friends. Here's why it's important to have a healthy relationship with your partner's friends, even if you're not bosom buddies: Because friends are family.
The nuclear family just doesn't work these days. More and more people are realizing that being a part of a diverse ecosystem of people with different skills, talents, and sensitivities is much more sustainable and healing than the orthodox family structures we were raised in. This is especially true of queer folks, who might be ostracized from their families.
I don't put down my parents or sibling when I fill out an emergency contact form. I put down the name of my best friend, because I know she's the one who would actually be able to find me if something went down. My family members just don't know me that well, and they live far away. This is what friends are to many people: support systems that we turn to.
According to psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, founder of www.lovevictory.com and author of Smart Relationships, that means your partner might be friends with a lot of different people for different reasons. "For example, these friends could be from childhood, work, or school of any kind. They might also be relatives or people who are workout buddies," she says. "You do not have to love and hangout with all these people."
But the important relationships are definitely really vital to your partner's life, and they are ones that need to be tended to, even if their best friends aren't like the best friends you have for yourself. That's because everyone looks to their best friend as the world's sagest guide, even when they have absolutely no idea what they're talking about.
If my best friend doesn't like someone who is close to me, I listen to her. We've been friends long enough that I trust she always has my best interest at heart. That doesn't mean I do everything she tells me to — far from it. But if she ever expressed that she didn't like my partner, I would re-evaluate the relationship. She isn't right 100 percent of the time, but she was always correct about my exes.
Assuming your partner's friends are good people, then they want what's best for your partner selflessly. These are the relationships that you should support, Dr. Wish says, even if you wouldn't choose them to be your closest friends. Dr. Wish also recommends being cordial and respectful. If they don't act that way toward you, she says that "to preserve your sanity, don't volunteer to hangout with them unless your partner says the event is important." But really, you should try to tolerate your partner's friends unless they are truly toxic people.
And if your SO's friends aren't good people — if they are judgmental, conniving or toxic — then you really do not have to be around them. Dr. Wish's advice is to "let your partner know — and that you do not want to be with that person."
I really hope, though, that it doesn't get to that point. When you enjoy being around your partner and their friends, and they enjoy being around yours, then your relationship becomes a part of a thriving, loving, ecosystem of important partnerships. That's something everyone deserves.
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